Stuart Hollings: ‘The great and the good of showing’


  • The 2021 show season has been one to remember, writes Stuart Hollings

    LAST week, Horse & Hound acknowledged the achievements of the great and good from the equestrian world in an awards ceremony at Cheltenham Racecourse (1 December).

    Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) similarly celebrated all that is brilliant about showing and produced several wonderful feel-good and first-time stories.

    Robert Walker’s supreme horse victory with Jill Day’s View Point, under racing royalty Henrietta Knight and Richard Johnson, was the jewel in the crown for the Walker clan, the nearest showing has to the Whitaker dynasty.

    Sister act Sarah Walker and Vicky Hesford made history when dominating the cob championship with Red Butler and Red Rock III respectively. The latter horse also stood reserve in the coloured section after scoring 97/100 – the highest ride and conformation total of the week.

    But the team’s proudest moment must have been when Izzy Walker, eight, headed the 122cm show hunter pony class riding Redlays Theseus on her first visit to HOYS off the lead-rein. Izzy is catching up to her brother, Sam, who has notched up two Birmingham wins.

    Raising the flag

    HOWEVER, the home-produced flag was hoisted several times during the week, proving you don’t need to be in a professional yard to taste HOYS success. After finishing second there on four occasions with her mare Chantilly Lace, Sarah Harrison captured the coloured tricolour with Lostock Up To Date.

    Another leaving no stone unturned was Mollie Mae Jeffrey. Her meticulous HOYS preparation paid dividends when she partnered Woodfield Jovial Joker to plaited working hunter pony of the year glory, as they did outdoors at the Royal International in July.

    Pharmacist Megan Cookson and her successful intermediate Louvaine Rooney won at their first attempt in the HOYS small hunter arena on their last outing together, as Rooney has now been retired.

    Also championing the next generation of show riders by claiming first-time horse victories were Frazer Atherden and Hannah Horton with their winning riding horses, Kellythorpes Obsession and Buriana Larkrise.

    The definition of what an intermediate should be – a stepping-stone ride – was showcased as winners Forgeland Hyde Park (Izzy Mears), Parkgate Royal Visit William (Zara Brookes) and Be Smart (Harry Moore) had excelled earlier in their respective hack and small hunter classes
    with their producers.

    Lisha Leeman’s achievement when her two animals trotted down the centre line was even more poignant this time, as both are home-bred. Riding horse champion Kellythorpes Obsession was also home-produced and shown by her son-in-law.

    Reserve show pony of the year, Kellythorpes Tiny Dancer (Gillie), will now take up matron duties after adding HOYS to her impressive winning tally.

    Her amazing jockey Cate Kerr also secured the 128cm showjumping title with her own Dunbarover IV for the second year running, within an hour of showing Gillie and would have been a worthy nominee for the young rider category at the H&H Cheltenham awards, but for the September deadline.

    Cate’s mother Lisa commented: “Her experience in showing definitely helps her jumping,” which was my favourite 2021 quote.

    Format tweaks in London

    I HEAR there’s an exciting change to the usual format of the LeMieux British Show Pony Society supreme Heritage ridden final, held at this year’s London International Horse Show at ExCeL.

    All 40 ponies will appear at the end of the morning’s preliminary judging, from which only the “Best of Breed” winners and top-10 finalists will go forward to the afternoon final presentation.

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